Defy (Defy, #1)

First Lines: The crackle and hiss of the flames devouring our house couldn’t block out the screaming and wailing of those who were still alive.  My friends, the children, and babies.  Orphans.  Most of the men were dead.

I put off reading this for a while due to bad reviews.  Don’t you just hate that?  When I originally read the premise, I thought it sounded awesome.  And then bad reviews started rolling in, and I second guessed myself.  But when a girl wants a fantasy read, she’ll grab what she can find.

Alexa has always been a fighter.  When her life crumbles around her, the only thing she knows how to do is fight back.  So she becomes Alex, a boy in her kingdom’s military.  Her cleverness and skill quickly earns her a place in the prince’s elite guard.  But when a sorcerer breaks in during the night to kidnap the prince, even Alex’s nearly undefeated skill isn’t enough to protect herself, the prince, and fellow guard Rylan from being kidnapped and taken to the jungle by the enemy nation.  And the longer Alex spends with Rylan and Prince Damian, the more she realizes she isn’t the only one keeping dangerous secrets.  When her secret is revealed, Alex finds herself facing a foe she’s never encountered: suitors.  Sweet and dependable Rylan, or the dark and intriguing Damian?  But with danger everywhere, is Alex strong enough to protect herself and her kingdom?

Admittedly, I was leery about the love triangle.  They just make me sigh and want to move on to something else.  But this one wasn’t as bad as I was expecting it to be.  For the most part, Alexa knows who she wants while the other guy is forced to watch from the wings.  So it did have that going for it.  I hate when the girl agonizes the whole story over who she’s going to pick.  Alexa didn’t do that, at least.

I love strong heroines, and I thought Alexa was a good one.  Who’s stronger than a girl who manages to masquerade as a boy for three years AND becomes the second in command in the prince’s guard?  That’s strong on multiple fronts.  (Some reviewers complain that Alexa is whiny and is overly emotional when it comes to the guys.  Eh.  I saw it at times, though not nearly as often as the reviewers would have you believe.)  I also thought Alexa was a great protagonist because, as a character, she was always keenly aware of what was going on around her.  That made her an interesting narrator.

I thought the plot was interesting.  There were many twists and turns.  And while I saw some coming, there were always more that I didn’t expect.  That kept me reading, easily.

And here we get to what needed work: the love story.  For a book that could be called a fantasy/romance, it seemed lacking on real depth to the love story.  I didn’t really feel it.  It was convenient and things sometimes moved too quickly or without good explanation.  I would have liked it if I could have felt more of the emotional side of things in that regard.  (Other emotions the story evokes were done pretty well, but not so much for this.)  And to some extent, I attribute this to being a debut novel.  Hey, everyone’s got to have a weakness, especially on your first run.

While it wasn’t a perfect novel, it was full of action and mystery, a strong heroine, and an interesting cast of characters.

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